An Indian military hospital

Photo:Wounded Indian soldiers being treated in the Royal Pavilion Music Room

Wounded Indian soldiers being treated in the Royal Pavilion Music Room

At the Royal Pavilion during the First World War

A new gallery opened at the Royal Pavilion during March 2010, highlighting a fascinating chapter in its history when during World War I the opulent royal palace was transformed into a military hospital for wounded Indian soldiers.

More than 4,000 were treated there

Between 1914 and 1916 more than 4,000 Indian soldiers, who were fighting under British command on the Western Front in France and Flanders, were treated at the Royal Pavilion.

Lavish rooms became hospital wards

Lavish public rooms, such as the Banqueting Room and Music Room, were transformed into wards and the Great Kitchen was even used as an operating theatre.

Tended like flowers

The soldiers were amazed at being cared for in such grand surroundings. One wrote to a friend back in India: "Our hospital is in the place where the King used to have his throne. The men in the hospital are tended like flowers."

Bringing the story to life

Archive photographs, paintings, contemporary accounts and newsreel footage help to bring the story to life in the new gallery, along with exhibits such as a Gurkha knife, Lee Enfield rifle, transcripts of letters sent home by the soldiers, a ward menu discovered under the floorboards, and a hookah pipe found discarded in the grounds.

Newsreel

The newsreel includes coverage of a visit by King George V and Queen Mary to the hospital in 1915, during which the Victoria Cross was presented to an Indian officer, Jemadar (equivalent to a lieutenant) Mir Dast for conspicuous gallantry. This was one of two visits the King and Queen made to the Royal Pavilion to meet patients.

Difficult to imagine

Looking around the Royal Pavilion now, with its glittering chandeliers and sumptuous furnishings, and exotic decoration, it is almost impossible to imagine it as a military hospital.

Fascinating period in history

This new permanent gallery will give local residents and visitors an opportunity to find out more about this fascinating period in the palace's history.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 203, March/April 2010]

 

This page was added on 04/04/2010.

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